Class D finals: Dominant first half allows No. 1 Hoosac Valley to defeat No. 3 Pioneer 57-35 (PHOTOS)

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye (2) goes to the basket against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye (2) goes to the basket against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Natalie Rios dives for a loose ball against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Natalie Rios dives for a loose ball against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Hailey Ring (12) goes the basket while defended by Hoosac Valley’s Abby Scialabba (22), left, and Hanna Shea (11) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Hailey Ring (12) goes the basket while defended by Hoosac Valley’s Abby Scialabba (22), left, and Hanna Shea (11) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington (3) drives to the basket against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington (3) drives to the basket against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington (3) dribbles against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington (3) dribbles against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington holds possession down low while defended by Hoosac Valley’s Emma Meczywor (12), left, and Hoosac’s Maryn Cappiello (4) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Addie Harrington holds possession down low while defended by Hoosac Valley’s Emma Meczywor (12), left, and Hoosac’s Maryn Cappiello (4) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye, right, battles for a rebound with Hoosac Valley’s Taylor Garabedian (35), left, and Emma Meczywor (12), center, during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye, right, battles for a rebound with Hoosac Valley’s Taylor Garabedian (35), left, and Emma Meczywor (12), center, during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye, right, dribbles in front of Hoosac Valley’s Maryn Cappiello (4) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Fota N’Diaye, right, dribbles in front of Hoosac Valley’s Maryn Cappiello (4) during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Kyler McClelland (11), left, dribbles against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School.

Pioneer’s Kyler McClelland (11), left, dribbles against Hoosac Valley during the Panthers’ 57-35 loss in the Western Mass. Class D championship game on Saturday at Westfield High School. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-24-2024 3:30 PM

WESTFIELD — Top-seeded Hoosac Valley was firing on all cylinders early.

The Hurricanes hit four 3-pointers in the opening four minutes of the Western Mass. Class D championship game, keeping No. 3 Pioneer off the scoreboard completely while building a commanding 18-0 lead midway through the frame. 

Hoosac Valley extended its lead to 35-9 at the half and while Pioneer outscored the Hurricanes 26-22 in the second half, the strong first half proved to be too much to overcome with the Hurricanes taking home the title via a 57-35 victory at Westfield High School. 

It was the third straight Western Mass. title for Hoosac (18-3), a much different storyline compared to a Panthers (15-6) team that was playing in their first WMass final in 25 years.

“This was a great opportunity to level set against a great basketball program,” Pioneer coach Kevin Harrington said. “This isn’t a team we played — this is a program. You see it with their years of success. They play at a high level and it was an awesome test for us. We know what’s out there and now we know how we need to prepare to get ready for the state tournament.” 

It felt like everything the Hurricanes put up early on found its way to the bottom of the net. 

Ashlyn Lesure opened the game with a basket, Hannah Shea swished a 3 and Abby Scialabba added a trey of her own to allow Hoosac to race out to an 8-0 lead. 

Behind a trapping press, the Hurricanes forced multiple turnovers and converted those to baskets. Lesure scored in transition off a turnover, Emma Meczywor and Shea made back-to-back 3s before Meczywor scored off a turnover and in the blink of an eye, Hoosac held an 18-0 lead. 

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Pioneer’s Hailey Ring finally got Pioneer on the board with its first basket of the game with 3:37 to go in the quarter. 

“They want to win,” Hurricanes coach Jon Frederick said of his team. “You saw that in the first half. They know we need to have every loose ball and fight for every loose ball.” 

Hoosac added five points before the quarter came to a close while Ring tallied another basket for the Panthers, with the Hurricanes leading 23-4 after eight minutes. 

Ring, a senior, scored five points in the second quarter and had all nine of Pioneer’s first-half points, though Hoosac scored 12 points in the frame, capped off with a Scialabba 3-pointer closing it out to give the Hurricanes a 35-9 lead at the break. 

“You could see we were struggling with our younger players,” Harrington said. “To have [Ring] step up and play like that was huge. We asked her to play a new role this year and play down low. To see her handle the ball, beat the pressure and use her athleticism to score points and keep us hanging around in the first half was great.” 

The Panthers settled in during the second half and came out flying in the third quarter to get the Hurricanes’ attention. 

Addie Harrington got things going with a jumper, Fota N’Diaye got to the rim for two, Harrington made a basket while being fouled and Kyler McClelland drilled a 3, with Pioneer going on a 9-0 run to open the third to cut the lead to 35-18. 

Meczywor answered with a pair of 3s for Hoosac while adding another basket in the frame, allowing the Hurricanes to hold a 44-22 lead going into the fourth. 

Hoosac opened the fourth on an 8-3 run to take a 52-25 lead and assure it’d take home its third straight Western Mass. title. 

“The goal was to chip away and win a quarter,” Kevin Harrington said. “We wanted to go out, win the third quarter first. Then the goal was to win the second half. We realize this isn’t our final game of the season.” 

After getting the nerves out of the way, the Panthers looked like a different team in the second half. 

Getting to play a program like Hoosac — which is the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Div. 5 state tournament — will help Pioneer prepare for its state tournament run, where it enters as the No. 10 seed in the Div. 5 field. 

“We’re young,” Kevin Harrington said. “A lot of these girls don’t have many miles on them. You put this in the bag as miles in a big basketball court in front of a lot of fans. The nerves get you at the beginning and their press gave us problems. We settled in and showed everything we’ve worked on.” 

Ring finished with 14 points, McClelland recorded nine points, Harrington tallied seven points, Natalie Rios scored three points while N’Diaye had two points for the Panthers. 

Meczywor led the Hurricanes with 22 points. Garabedian finished with 10 points, Lesure scored nine points and Shea tallied eight points in the victory.